High School Sports

High school volleyball: Dunbar tops Tates Creek

Gabbi Thatcher of Paul Laurence Dunbar spiked the ball in a volleyball match against visiting Tates Creek Thursday night.
Gabbi Thatcher of Paul Laurence Dunbar spiked the ball in a volleyball match against visiting Tates Creek Thursday night. Herald-Leader

Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek wore strikingly similar uniforms for their volleyball match on Thursday night: black jerseys with white piping on the sleeves.

Apparently, there's not much difference in how these top 20 teams play, either.

Three weeks ago Tates Creek swept Dunbar 25-18, 25-15 in a best-of-three match in the Bluegrass Invitational Tournament.

Thursday night, No. 14 Dunbar returned the favor, sweeping the No. 18 Commodores 25-13, 25-22, 25-20 in a best-of-five regular-season showdown.

Bulldogs senior middle-hitter Gabbi Thatcher said she and her teammates were motivated by the loss to their district rivals in mid-August.

"We were so psyched, so ready to play them again.

"Our intensity and energy were so much better this time. We pushed all the way through tonight."

Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan said her players eliminated their mistakes and "just played the game, and didn't worry about the little things."

It was a team effort by the hosts, who got solid play from Thatcher and fellow seniors Joia Pollard, Emma Landers and Becca Williams, juniors Alyssa Gatewood, Hope Gassett and Alyson Hatfield, and sophomore Olivia Canalas.

"The last time we played (Tates Creek), we let our mistakes get to us," Landers said.

"This time, we stayed 'up' even when we made a mistake. That was the difference."

After Dunbar won the first game easily, Tates Creek played the Bulldogs toe-to-toe the rest of the night.

Sophomore star Kendall Beerman and senior setter Danielle Merryman kept the Commodores alive, along with Bailey Skaggs, Michaela Carter and Sydney Meaux.

The key play of the night came with Dunbar up 24-22 in the second game. Beerman hit her trademark rocket shot, but Hatfield made a great dig and the Bulldogs got the point and the game.

The third game was close all the way, but Pollard made the clutch plays to close it out for Dunbar.

Tates Creek Coach Sara Chaffin thought her team may have been rattled a bit by the Bulldogs' home-court advantage. "I think the atmosphere might've got to them a little. This is an intense place to play."

Dunbar has been tough to beat on the road, too. It went 6-1 in a tournament in Orlando, Fla., last week, and is now 15-5. That's a big turnaround from last year when they had a rare losing record.

Tates Creek has been playing well lately, too, which is why Chaffin was surprised by her team's sub-par performance Thursday night.

"We had a breakdown in passing," she said. "When you don't pass well, you're running your setter everywhere and you can't run the offense."

Chaffin said the loss will be a learning experience for the Commodores.

"I have faith in this team," she said. "When they get home, their homework is to reflect, think about something they could've done better. They'll come back and tell the team tomorrow, 'This is what I'm going to improve on and how I'm going to grow as a player.'"

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